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Concern for children's health is growing as they spend more time indoors and more time looking at phones and tablets, so we must seize every opportunity to make outdoor activity an attractive option. Mark Ruskell MSP

Proposed legislation by a Green MSP for a safer speed limit in built-up areas will help counter the obesity epidemic by making outdoor activity a more attractive option for children and their families, according to a leading child health expert.

In a blog supporting Mark Ruskell’s Restricted Roads (20 mph Speed Limit) (Scotland) Bill, Professor Steve Turner, Officer for Scotland, Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, writes:

“Slower traffic will encourage children to walk and change their lifestyle to one which counters the obesity epidemic. Parents will not have the confidence to allow their children to play outside if our country’s roads are too dangerous. Reducing the speed limit in built-up areas will help to reduce fatalities on the road and make outdoor activity a more attractive option for children and their families.”

Mr Ruskell’s proposal, to make 20mph the default limit in urban areas, enjoys strong public support and is backed by numerous health campaigners, safety experts and environmental groups. The bill is due to be scrutinised by a Holyrood committee in the Spring.

Prof Turner also points out:

“More than a quarter of Scottish children are overweight or obese, and this is associated with childhood mental health and orthopaedic problems and putting them on course to develop potentially devastating illnesses which include type 2 diabetes, cancer, stroke and heart disease in early adulthood. Regular physical activity helps to keep children a healthy weight, and contributes to greater wellbeing. The Restricted Roads (20 mph Speed Limit) (Scotland) Bill marks a significant step in the right direction towards achieving safer roads for all, and thus, safer spaces for children across Scotland to spend their all-important recreational time outdoors.”

Scottish Green MSP Mark Ruskell said:

“Making the safer speed of 20mph the standard limit in built-up areas will save lives and reduce injuries, and Professor Turner’s analysis strengthens the case even further. There’s no magic solution to the obesity epidemic but clearly if we have safer streets where children can cycle and play we make it easier to be active.

“Concern for children’s health is growing as they spend more time indoors and more time looking at phones and tablets, so we must seize every opportunity to make outdoor activity an attractive option. The aim of my bill, recognised by the public and by experts, is to prevent deaths on our streets, reduce the seriousness of accidents and improve air quality to benefit everyone’s health. I look forward to the committee examining the details in the coming months.”